6. The 50 hour drawing – 20/50

‘Chance summons chaos through which its links are forever and continuously forged’. (Bataille / Iversen: 2010: 33)


Once the A1 paper was secure I began to fill the space with meditative pulse lines previously explored within my sketchbook. Part way through this process I was interrupted by the phone (a common occurrence when selling/buying houses!). The ‘true’ line that I was striving for was interrupted and the moment lost. This blip was then documented (Stage 1-2). I resolved to only answer the landline if I was outside the flow of creativity, or if some psychic force told me that it was an emergency.

The process of drawing these lines became quite automatic at times and more effective when not thinking about it.

In response to this layer I began thinking about rivers flowing through and produced an experiment on acetate using blue roller ball pen. This emerging idea became even more pronounced after Prof. Brian Cox’s talked of the meandering, bends, ratios and rules of the river during an episode of The Human Universe. Prof. Cox then went on to explain that ‘Order is hidden in everything’. If coincidence is anything to do with order then I am inclined to believe this.


The juxtaposition of opposites and the relationship between them interests me. I knew at this stage I was keen to impose some kind of structure and decided on a grid comprising of precise 5mm x 5mm squares (stage 3). As opposed to the freer, more unconscious lines of the previous layer the rigid construction of the grid is a lot more conscious. Once this was complete I strove to find connections between the two layers, plotting where the layers meet, where unconscious meets conscious; soul meets beast.

My first encounter with trepidation occurred just before I began to draw the apple (stage 5). I had already become precious about my work, wanting to preserve layers – this would become a hard lesson to overcome: yet I believe one of the most important. The kind of lesson that is a lot more far-reaching than could be imagined. Once overcome it gets easier, but with that comes the tricky balance and compromise between order and chaos.

As I begin drawing the apple trepidation turns to fear as I grapple to maintain the quality of marks. Then, quite suddenly, I have a surreal sense of detachment as if the unconscious beast has taken control, where the conscious act has become unconscious through process.

I view the drawing from a distance and begin to wonder if the apple is trapped.

Once the apple is complete I move on to draw the devoured core (at, what is currently the core of the drawing). Once this is complete (stage 7) I stand back and for the first time experience a sense of completion. I develop a fondness of this ‘composition’, the use of space and the pleasing, rather conceptual look of it. This is not good, given that I have another 36 hours of drawing to go!

Perhaps, I think, it is time to let chance have a go.

I go to great lengths to recreate the apple core accident, to let chance have a chance (?!) to do its thing; to let paint react with the juices and allow me to, as I so aptly put it in my previous entry: ‘see the universe in it’. And so I rigged up some masking tape and positioned the apple core over painted area (Stages 8 & 9). I gave it 24 hours to produce its magic and…



Because, this had been no discarded core, left to mingle with other discarded material without any human interaction (unless you include the act of discarding as part interaction), this was a planned construction with expectation. To choose chance as an option is a conscious decision where variables are determined by my decisions, such as placement of the apple core and manipulation of materials. It is true to say though that once it was put into place I had no control over how the core affected the paint – that was surely up to chemistry. Either way, it had little to no affect and the only happy (or rather, unhappy) accident here was the tearing of some of the papers surface when taking off the masking tape.

I believe that the reason I was striving to let chance play a part was partly the response to becoming over-precious with my work. It is clear that each layer created will respond and react in some way to the previous layer, and in many ways it was these very reactions that I was interested in, whether I felt them to be ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. Destruction leads to creation, and although I often loathe spelling out any definitive meanings, perhaps for this piece the embracement of this notion could be it.

And so it made perfect sense to continue to take risks. A mixture of hues and chewed apple was launched at the core (Stage 10 & 11).

The violent act of biting into the apple



Atoms dispursed

The universe dribbles down my tongue

 Standing back from this moment I noticed that, not only did the colours reflect the stages of eating the apple but also were reminiscent of blood and vomit, something quite visceral.

One element feeds off the next, responds to it, fights it, marries it.

The notions of violence, pulse and the flow of the river conjured up images of strong, eager and pulsing veins (Stage 12).




In response to the previous experience that I had had whilst eating the apple and my perceptions of the attitudes/beliefs of some drivers/humans I created a series of car crashes using Photoshop. The last image was then chosen and transferred to the drawing (Stage 13).

Love, child, reach, rise

Sight, blind, steal, light

Mind, scar, clear, fire

Clean, right, pure, kind

Sun, come, sky, tar

Mouth, sand, teeth, tongue

Cut, push, reach, inside

Feed, breathe, touch, come

 No pain, no death, no fear, no hate

No time, no now, no suffering

No touch, no loss, no hand, no sense

No wound, no waste, no lust, no fear

No mind, no greed, no suffering

No thought, no hurt, no hands to reach

No knife, no words, no lie, no cure

No need, no hate, no will, no speech

No dream, no sleep, no suffering

No pain, no now, no time, no hear

No knife, no mind, no hand, no fear

 Love! Now!

Breathe! Now!

Here! Now!

Here! Now!

Here! Now!

Lyrics from the song Screen Shot by Swans (Stage 15 & 16)

The act of spontaneity and the process of layering had led to something akin to freedom within the piece. Text was put down quickly, layer upon layer. Hidden and revealed. Destroyed and created. My hand was covered in fluid white paint, dragged down the surface like a swimmer’s had reaching out, or perhaps something more sensual.

This wild abandon suddenly dissipated and in a blink of an eye, standing back again from the work, the whole thing suddenly felt confined.

I had been feeling confinement for some time but ignoring it. Despite the reasonable size of the piece (I rarely work larger than A2 unless using charcoal which is easily manipulated) I was beginning to feel the restrictions of the space. The reasons for neglecting this feeling were partly down to practical issues; the space that I am working in doesn’t allow for large pieces and I was reluctant to work on the floor as I often used to.

As I was feeling freedom in the marks (Stage 18) but in turn feeling this confinement I experienced a sudden dislike for the work.

I began looking at sections, cropping, seeing book covers (19) but still disliking the whole. I imposed a graphite-edged triangle (God, law, order) over the center.

(Was I attempting to seek order amongst the apparent chaos?)

I liked the effects that these ethereal edges created but ultimately I experience regret. I then (like the car?) hit a brick wall and sustained a paralysis.

I obviously had to question what hitting a brick wall meant. To continue meant that I had to tolerate these moments of uncertainty, learn from them and move on.

I have since been reminded of this rather apt passage taken from the wonderful book Art & Fear by David Bayles & Ted Orlands as they dissect Ansel Adams’s ideas on precision and perfection:

 The pattern is predictable: as you see error in what you have done, you steer your work toward what you imagine you can do perfectly. You cling ever more tightly to what you already know you can do – away from risk and exploration, and possibly further from the work of your heart. You find reasons to procrastinate, since to not work is to not make mistakes.  (Bayles & Orland: 2013: 21)

I had thoughts of tracing and/or muting the whole thing, choosing sections to highlight and rework, thinking about how to extend and scribbling sketches over prints of the work.

Finally I pushed forth and preceded to destroy and reconfigure areas, in particular the bottom left section (Stage 20).

A feeling of contentment arose through this process of creation and destruction and I could feel and see something interesting forming, moving detritus of marks thrusting and battling upwards.

I maintained vigor within this area of the drawing and began overlaying structural and rhythmical lines and shapes to achieve a sense of depth (Stage 22).



The drawing is still confined and needs space to breath.

There is a definite need to extend.




References so far:




Marshall, R & Sawdon, P (2012) Hyperdrawing: Beyond the Lines of Contemporary Art I B Tauris & Company Ltd


Farr, I (2012) Memory Whitechapel Ventures Ltd


Feinstein, R (1991) Robert Rauschenberg: The Silkscreen Paintings 1962-64 Whitney Museum of American Art


Iversen, M (2010) Cance Whitechapel Ventures Ltd


Bayles, D & Orland, T (2013) Art & Fear The Image Continuum



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